Alnwick Abbey

Has been described as a Certain Fortified Ecclesiastical site

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameAlnwick Abbey
Alternative Names
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishDenwick

Remains of a monastery of Premonstratensian canons founded in 1147, dissolved 1539. The gatehouse is the only standing structure, the rest of the complex is marked out following excavations carried out in 1889. A precinct wall delimited the North side of the site, with the extant gatehouse near the middle. The River Aln demarked the South side. The church was placed roughly centrally, with the claustral range to the South. The church was crucifrorm, ailsed, and had 2 chapels to the east of both the North and South transepts. To the South lay the slype, chapter house, warming house and dormitory. The West range of the cloister was not excavated. The infirmary buildings lay in a separate block to the South East of the church. There was an outer court to the West, which included the cellarers range, guest house, the kitchen, bakehouse, and ovens. Dependencies included the hospital at Alnwick, and Guyzance priory cell. (PastScape)

Gatehouse of Premonstratensian Abbey. Late C14, with some minor late C18/C19 alterations and restoration. Ashlar; Lakeland slate roof. Rectangular 2- storey block with projecting taller angle turrets. Perpendicular style.

North (formerly external) front: Gothick panelled double doors under moulded segmental arch, with small recesses to each side and 2 niches above, the lower with worn statue. Machicolated parapet with shields and moulded crenellations. Flanking turrets, corbelled out at different levels, have small loops, some with trefoiled ogee heads. Single storey block on right, probably post-medieval, with 2 small loops.

South front shows similar arch with 2-light transomed window above

Flat- pointed doorways in turrets, that to right blocked; left turret has 2-light transomed window with cusped heads to lights and metal lattice casements.

East side has deeply-recessed centre with blocked 4-centred arch under canopied niche, with transomed and traceried 2-light windows above and in turret to right; carved hoodmould stops and heraldry on turrets and machicolated parapet. West side shows small loops and corbelled-out garderobe below parapet.

Interior: Segmental barrel vault over gate passage. Straight mural stair to 1st floor in west wall, and full-height newel stair in south-east turret. 4-centred arched doorways to stairs and turret chambers.

Historical Notes. Abbey founded in 1147 by Eustace Fitz-John; famous for its relics, the foot of Simon de Montfort and the chalice of St. Thomas of Canterbury. The main buildings lay south of the gatehouse; after excavation in 1884 the plan was marked out but is now only traceable with difficulty. (Listed Building Report)

Gatehouse Comments

The C14 gatehouse is certainly built in a martial style and has De Vescy family armorials but, as with most monastic precincts, the defensibility of the large precinct is highly questionable.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNU178140
Latitude55.4202499389648
Longitude-1.71937000751495
Eastings417800
Northings614000
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Russel Wills and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.

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Books

  • Harrison, Peter, 2004, Castles of God (Woodbridge; Boydell Press) p. 67, 75, 77
  • Pevsner, N., Richmond, I., Grundy, J., McCombie, G., Ryder, P. and Welfare, H., 2001, The Buildings of England: Northumberland (London, Penguin Books)┬áp. 135
  • Brooke, C.J., 2000, Safe Sanctuaries (Edinburgh; John Donald) p. 99-100
  • Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 145
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 170
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 363
  • Graham, Frank, 1976, The Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Frank Graham) p. 30-3
  • Knowles, D. and Hadcock, R.N., 1971, Medieval religious houses in England and Wales (London) p. 185
  • Pevsner, N., 1957, Buildings of England: Northumberland (London, Penguin) p. 67
  • Knowles, D. and Hadcock, R.N., 1953, Medieval religious houses in England and Wales (London) p. 162
  • Bradley, E., 1938, The Story of English Abbeys told in counties Vol. 1 (London) p. 29
  • Tate, George., 1866-69, The History of the Borough, Castle, and Barony of Alnwick (Alnwick) Vol. 2 p. 58-63
  • Hartshorne, C.H., 1858, Feudal and Military Antiquities of Northumberland and the Scottish Borders (London) p. 272-82 online copy
  • Anon, 1822, Descriptive and Historical View of Alnwick (Alnwick) p. 266-73
  • Grose, Francis, 1785 (new edn orig 1756), Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 4 p. 32-5
  • Hutchinson, Wm, 1776, A View of Northumberland (Newcastle) Vol. 2 p. 255- online copy

Journals

  • St John Hope, W.H., 1889, 'On the Premonstratensian Abbey of St Mary at Alnwick, Northumberland' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser2) Vol. 13 p. 1-10 online copy
  • St John Hope, W.H., 1887, 'On the Premonstratensian Abbey of St Mary at Alnwick, Northumberland' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 44 p. 337-46 (plan) online copy